Missing Minister: Government Snubs Media After Christmas Party Leaks

Downing Street staff were shown joking in leaked recording about a Christmas party they later denied.
Where is the minister today?
Where is the minister today?
HuffPost UK

Touring the studios from radio phone-ins to broadcast studios, ministers are a daily fixture on the morning media round when parliament is sitting.

However, presenters say no minister has been made available today after the government was engulfed in a scandal over an alleged Christmas party last year.

Sky News presenter Kay Burley said they had “originally” been told health secretary Sajid Javid would take part in interviews to mark the anniversary of the first vaccine being administered.

However, it is understood Javid pulled out of a number of interviews after a leaked video showed government aides joking about a “fictional” Christmas party in 2020.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup is also believed to have pulled out of a planned round of regional television interviews.

Burley told Sky viewers: “Good morning, PMQs should be an incredibly good watch this lunchtime with Boris Johnson facing questions about what exactly happened inside No10 a week before Christmas last year.

“The government’s consistently denied that a party took place saying no rules were broken while the country was under strict lockdown.

“Yet leaked footage has emerged showing the PM’s then press secretary and top advisors joking about reports of a party, a cheese wine event in fact, with no social distancing.

“Now normally we’d ask a government minister about this. We were told originally that it was going to be the health secretary Sajid Javid, because of course, it’s the first anniversary of the first vaccine being administered.

“But now we’ve been told that sadly, no-one’s actually accepted our invitation. We’ve not even had a proper RSVP.”

Nick Robinson from BBC Radio 4’s Today programme said: “We were expecting to speak to the health secretary Sajid Javid this morning but we were told just a few minutes after that video emerged that no minister would be available to speak on the programme today.”

It comes after a video was leaked showing senior No10 staff joking about the party - days after one was apparently held there during lockdown.

The prime minister and his aides have repeatedly denied that the event broke Covid rules or took place at all.

On Monday, Johnson’s spokesman insisted there was “not a party” last winter amid mounting pressure over claims they flouted covid rules.

However, the video uncovered by ITV shows Allegra Stratton, Johnson’s then press secretary, discussing with another aide a “fictional” Downing Street Christmas party on “Friday night”.

The mock news conference took place in Downing Street on Tuesday 22 December, without members of the media present.

Johnson will be expecting a tough grilling in prime minister’s questions today.

In a flavour of what is to come, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy called on the Prime Minister to “come clean” with the British public.

He told the BBC: “It really is quite unacceptable that this is seen as something that is sort of humorous, or something that isn’t serious, or something that suggests that there can be one rule for a prime minister and those in No 10 and another rule for the British public.”

HuffPost UK contacted the cabinet office and department for health for comment.


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